Our publically-funded health care system is in jeopardy.
Not only has the Harper government refused to work out a new health care accord with the provinces, but Dr. Brian Day is presenting a legal challenge to the Canada Health Act, which comes before the Supreme Court of B.C. on Sept. 8.
Dr. Day is the owner of a Vancouver for-profit health clinic. He wants to set his own prices for medically necessary care, and so is asking the court to declare as unconstitutional the cornerstone of our universal public health care system: that health care be provided according to patients’ needs, not their ability to pay.
If Dr. Day wins his case, the Canada Health Act will be breached and we in Canada will be faced with a two-tier health care system. People with lots of money will go to the head of the line for medical services; most other Canadians will have reduced access to care. Australian research has shown that private, for-profit facilities drain health care professionals from the rest of the system, thus lengthening wait times for all but those who can afford expensive private insurance.
In addition, two-tier health care does not reduce government spending. Since introducing their two-tier model, Germany’s health care spending has spiralled out of control, resulting in billions of dollars in annual deficits.
Canadians everywhere need to wake up to this very real threat to one of Canada’s most cherished institutions. I was growing up in Saskatchewan in the 1950s when Tommy Douglas, then Premier of Saskatchewan, was fighting so hard to establish a publically-funded system there. Reviled by the medical establishment at the time, he later was voted the most revered Canadian of the 20th century in a popular poll – largely because of medicare.
We owe it to Tommy Douglas and to ourselves to stand up to neo-liberals like Dr. Day and our Prime Minister and protect our publically funded health care system.